Waiheke Island is approached by a rapid and expensive ferry from Auckland. It is a popular day trip with wine lovers, vacationers, and wedding parties. The busiest part of the island is the west side- where the town center has cafes, shops, and a movie theater. Our destination however, Crescent Valley Eco Lodge, lies closer to the quiet and verdant middle of the island.
Each day at the eco lodge was punctuated with a burst of early afternoon work followed by a walk to the beach or an evening marathon of classic British murder mysteries. After a “demanding” 10 hour work week, a clear and bright Sunday rolled around- perfect for a bike ride to Stony Batter, an old WWII tunnel system.
The hilly route was arduous and I frequently walked my bike up the steepest sections. However, my legs felt recharged after gliding downhill through a canopy of tall pines and winding through pastoral fields covered in nervous sheep.
The loose gravel road had finally gotten the better of me. I was barreling down the last hill and unable to match the trajectory of my bike with the curve of the road. Barret glanced back just in time to see me crash into an embankment.
“Are you OK?”
I could tell he was trying not to laugh.
The same woman who sold us tickets administered gentle words and loving strokes to the injured sheep lying at the entrance to Stony Batter. After receiving a lantern we entered the chill concrete chambers. Walking the tunnels reminded me of the days I stood behind my father’s shoulder and watched him play Doom. The setting was just right for an unleashed demon to come tearing up a subterranean staircase.
While the canons never fired upon enemies, I am sure any invader would have thought twice before approaching. The larger shells weighed 380 lbs and needed two 60 lbs explosive charges! Although I am sure the construction crew felt just as daunted- they had to clear the namesake stones and build the tunnels in secrecy with pick shovels. I really appreciate my two hour workday!
How to get there:
Stony Batter – accessible only by rental car, bicycle, or hitch-hiking. It is on the NE corner of the island on Man O’ War Bay Road.